When I was fresh out of college, I took up running to escape and commit. Physical exercise was a tremendous release for me from the stresses of beginning a new career and life as a young adult. I was also coaching high school athletes then as well. I was passionate about everything and had new, raw talents. Maturity was not my strong suit.
Through commitment to running, I learned a lot of lessons on how to set goals, prepare your body, and train, but what I mostly learned was that you must invest in yourself. Better equipment, routines, diets, and healthy habits would lead towards greater success. I also learned that not paying attention to details, taking short cuts, and lack of discipline would lead to failure or worst yet, injury.
Stress is not a Bad Thing
Fast forward to a life of leadership. The lessons I learned through a running regimen were transferrable to those qualities that make up a great leader. Attention to detail, continuous learning, building healthy habits, and practicing and perfecting your skills were incredibly important to success and in reducing your stress load.
I learned that not all stress is a bad thing. Weightlifters and runners will tell you that there is a positive effect to a practical overload principle activity. This principle is defined as to improve any aspect of physical fitness, the individual must continually increase the demands placed on the appropriate body systems. For example, to develop strength, heavier objects must be progressively lifted. For runners, they may gradually increase their distance or speed.
Leadership Lessons Learned
This was an excellent way to improve mental stamina and build muscle and pain tolerance. Same principle can be applied to leadership. Never get under a weight you aren’t prepared to lift or run a course that your mind and body are not ready to handle. In leadership, you must also evaluate what you can handle and can’t handle. I never wanted to be a person who over-promised and under-delivered. I imagine you are the same way.
Invest in What Counts
A great course of action is to find those moments to invest in yourself. Rest, recovery, live, learn. Athletes have figured this out long ago. The difference is they feel pain or fatigue. Those are signs where the body us giving you information. We all should figure out what will be our “check engine light” and how we will respond before it happens. Give yourself permission to establish a pace of work and time each day to invest in your mental and physical health. You won’t regret it.
Remember, the journey is long and satisfaction is deep.